Wednesday, November 14, 2007

5. The Rainy Season Arrives in the Peruvian Amazon

Written: December 2006 (translated from Spanish original)

The rainy season starts in December and the rivers rise. On our boat trip to Jenaro Herrera, we saw many trees floating in the rivers that are dangerous in nighttime journeys. It’s constantly raining here, and we have to do what we can to keep up with the monitoring.

Photo: Angel and Italo working in the rain. © Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Another problem in this season is the greater number of mosquitoes that don’t let you work. I fitted a piece of netting fabric around my hat that let me take pictures and make my observations with some peace. With my poncho protecting my camera, I could make notes. We noticed some of the resin lumps had grown substantially. I believe we may be close to finding a copal weevil in the mesh trap. By the end of our time, we achieved our objective. I was very pleased to return home with more than 500 photographs. Now I am preparing the photos to send off.

A small dog named Bandito always accompanied us on our adventures. He is used to the jungle and is always alert to dangers such as snakes. We have not seen snakes yet this month, but one can easily find poisonous snakes such as parrot machaco and aguaje machaco in the forest and abandoned houses. They really like the heat; their favorite resting places are roofs.

Photo: Bandito in the forest. © Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

4. Forest Journey - September 2006

Written: December 2006 (translated from Spanish original)

I began a very interesting journey in September. Our goal was to find at least 100 copal trees in a primary forest. I was very enthusiastic to find them. I was accompanied in this search by Italo Meléndez, Melanio Meléndez and Mayer Vásquez. They were woodsmen of Jenaro Herrera with a lot of experience in investigation who knew the forest of this area very well.

Photo: Owl butterfuly (Caigo spp.) at Jenaro Herrera. © Angel Raygada Rengifo/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

We found many insects on our paths (mosquitos, wasps, stingless bees, assassin bugs, giant cicadas, large dragonflies etc.) birds (partridges, nightjars, owls, hummingbirds, etc), red and black scorpions, very large nocturnal and diurnal butterflies, grasshoppers, walking sticks up to 16 cm long, frogs, and spiders. The gigantic wasp is a spider hunter, one of the largest kinds in the Pompilidae family. We also saw various types of monkeys (capuchin, marmosets, and titis), flowers, mushrooms of many colors, and beautiful landscapes.

Photo: Angel with a chinche bug. © Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

After four days, we had found 102 copal trees, almost all of which had beautiful resin lumps. Next we approached the most difficult part of the study: collecting botanical samples from all of these trees. The trees we found that were more than 20 meters tall with diameters larger than 40 cm were very difficult to collect from. We’ve now identified these trees and are moving on to the next phase of the investigation that is the harvest of copal resin lumps.

Photo: Swamp forest at Jenaro Herrera. © Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

3. Copal Resin and the Resin Weevils

Written December 2006 (translated from Spanish original)

One of my main jobs as the manager of the Center for Amazon Ecology copal resin project is to carry out monthly monitoring of copal trees in the Jenaro Herrera Center for Investigation run by the Institute for Investigation of the Peruvian Amazon (IIAP). Our first group of study trees are located in the Arboretum and two areas of copal tree plantations (that we call Plantation 1 and 2). By the end of December 2006, we had also marked 102 copal study trees in natural forest just north of one plantation (that we call North Forest). One principal goal of my mission is to photograph the resin lumps on the outside of these trees.

The action of a weevil, a member of the beetle (Coleoptera) family, is normally responsible for the formation of resin lumps on these trees. The process starts when a female places its egg inside the bark. When the larva hatches, it eats the inside bark and provokes the flow of liquid resin onto the outer bark. This resin hardens when it is exposed to the air. The lumps are small at first and then grow along with the growth of th
e larva. I take photos of the same lumps every month and send them to Dr. Plowden. He uses Photoshop to measure the lump sizes to estimate the growth of the lump and the larva inside.

Photo: Resin lump made by a weevil larva. © C. Plowden/CACE

We completely cover some of the resin lumps with a cone-shaped wire mesh trap. We designed this trap to capture an adult weevil when it emerges from the resin lump. This will allow us to measure the stages of the biological cycle of this insect. I check these traps every month to look for any newly emerged resin weevils.

Photo: Angel installing a cone mesh trap. © C. Plowden/CACE

We have also placed small plastic traps near resin lumps on some trees to try and catch and learn about weevils and other insects that live in these trees that can be later identified. We have so far trapped five kinds of beetles. We now need to know which of them make the resin lumps.
Photo: Adult weevil found near a resin lump on a copal tree at Jenaro Herrera. © C. Plowden/CACE

In the forest, there are also stingless bees that interact with the copal trees by collecting their resin. During these months we have trapped many types of bees and a wasp. We'll report more about these later.

2. Introduction to Amazon town Jenaro Herrera

Written December, 2006 (translation from Spanish original)

The main site for the Copal Resin Project of the Center for Amazon Community Ecology is Jenaro Herrera. It is a district of the Province of Requena, Loreto, Peru. It is on the right bank of the Ucayali River. It takes 12 hours to reach the town of Jenaro Herrera by launch from Iquitos or 5 hours by a fast motorboat. The area is well known for its production of buffalo milk and cheese.

The Jenaro Herrera Center of Investigation (CIJH) is located near this town. It is a satellite center of the government Institute for Investigation of the Peruvian Amazon (IIAP), whose mission is to generate and to diffuse knowledge and simple viable technologies for the sustainable forest management of the low forest that support human economic development.

1. Introduction to Angel in the Amazon

Written December, 2006 (translated from Spanish original)

Hello friends. Greetings from Angel Eduardo Raygada Rengifo. I am an agronomy student at the National University of the Peruvian Amazon (UNAP) in Iquitos. I am a native of this pretty city situated in the Amazon forest in the Department of Loreto in Peru.

I am very pleased to belong to the non-governmental group Center for Amazon Community Ecology, called CECAMA in Spanish. I work with the group’s founder Dr. Campbell Plowden as manager of the group’s Copal Resin Project in Peru.

The Center is registered as a nonprofit corporation in Pennsylvania. Its purpose is to promote the understanding, conservation, and sustainable development of human and other biological communities in the Amazon region and other tropical forests. The specific objectives of the group are to study the ecology, management and marketing of forest plants and animals. It aims to help forest communities to safeguard and use the local resources and thus to maintain the development of the community and finally to educate al public about these activities and information related. The Copal Resin Project is designed to study the ecology and sustainable harvest of the aromatic copal resin in the northeastern Peruvian Amazon. Our main study area is located near the town of Jenaro Herrera on the Ucayali River.

Future entries of this blog will describe my experiences with the plants, animals and people of this region. I welcome your comments.